Students Struggle to Explain Their Own Program Code

Teemu Lehtinen, Aleksi Lukkarinen, Lassi Haaranen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference article in proceedingsScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


We asked students to explain the structure and execution of their small programs after they had submitted them to a programming exercise. These questions about learner’s code (QLCs) were delivered at three occasions in an online and open course in introductory programming as a part of the digital learning material. We make inductive content analysis to research the open-ended text answers we collected. One third of the students struggled to explain their own program code. This estimates possible occurrences of fragile learning at the moment when a student seemingly succeeds in a program writing exercise. Furthermore, we examine correlations between the correctness of the answers with other learning data. Our results indicate that answering properly aligned QLCs correctly has stronger correlation with student success and retention than merely submitting a correct program. Additionally, we present observations on learning event-driven programming to explore QLCs’ potential in identifying students’ thinking process.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationITiCSE '21: Proceedings of the 26th ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781450382144
ISBN (Print)978-1-4503-8214-4
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2021
MoE publication typeA4 Conference publication
EventAnnual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education - Virtual, Online, Paderborn, Germany
Duration: 26 Jun 20211 Jul 2021
Conference number: 26


ConferenceAnnual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education
Abbreviated titleITiCSE
Internet address


  • QLC
  • program comprehension
  • event-driven programming
  • introductory programming
  • CS1
  • online education


Dive into the research topics of 'Students Struggle to Explain Their Own Program Code'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this